Leadership Training

Making Connections

On November 4th, 2016 I headed up to Traverse City, Michigan for the Connections Conference. The two hour bus ride flew by, and everyone was super excited to visit the Great Wolf Lodge. After unpacking our things and settling into our hotel rooms, we had an opportunity to explore around the hotel. We went to the front desk and got a free pair of wolf ears, met Wiley the Wolf, and hung out by the fireplace and caught up with friends in our cohort.

Soon after we explored, the conference began. We received a name tag and a booklet with a schedule of activities in it. We were then sent to our first session, which was written on our name tags. My session was titled, “Coles Institute”, and I got to introduce myself to several new people. We did an activity that included thinking about what assets you bring to the table regarding culture, institutes, organizations, etc. It was such a cool experience, as I was able to hear everyone’s different ideas.

After meeting with our institutes, we went to dinner. We had to sit with the certain colored sticker that was on the back of our name tags. Personally, I absolutely loved this idea. Although it may be awkward to sit at a dinner table and make small talk with strangers, it’s also a ton of fun. I sat at the black sticker table, and I felt the energy radiating off of the people from the minute I sat down. We had no problem at all making conversation, and I got to meet people who are studying the same exact program and major as I am. I love making new friends and branching out, and that’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do!


After dinner, we had a few hours of downtime to check out the waterpark. My roommate Allie and I went down all of the waterslides and had a BLAST doing so. We walked around the water park and got to float down the lazy river and relax. After going to the waterpark, we had leadership “Speed Dating” in the conference room. This was an activity that pushed you out of your comfort zone and required you to introduce yourself to new people and find out some really cool things about your new friends. Speed dating wrapped up the end of the night, and we danced to music and then headed to the lobby to hang out. Instead of just going straight to bed, I got to sit down and chat and catch up with a few friends from my cohort that I didn’t usually get the opportunity to talk to. I was so genuinely happy while talking to everyone, and it made me smile to see everyone sitting around the fireplace, listening to music, sharing jokes, and watching videos. I felt so much closer to my cohort, and that was such an awesome feeling.


In the morning, we went to breakfast and then headed to two different sessions. The two I had before lunch were called, “The Dirty Dozen” and “Netflix and No Chill”. “The Dirty Dozen” was an interactive presentation that listed the twelve excuses we tell ourselves while making immoral decisions. Both presentations were fantastic, interactive, and super informational. I felt so inspired after these presentations, and I could honestly say that they were my favorites of the day. We then moved on to lunch and two more sessions. The third and fourth sessions I attended were titled, “Leadership Through the Eyes of Disney” and “Leaders In Action: Implementing Emotional Intelligence Strategies”. I thoroughly enjoyed the Disney presentation, and I was left singing Disney songs for the rest of the day.

After all of the presentations were completed, we did a debriefing session with our institutes, packed up our bags, and headed back to CMU. Most of us slept on the two hour ride home, and a few of us watched the movie that was being played on the TV screens.

Now What? Reflecting back on Connections, I had an amazing time. I learned so much and took away valuable information that I can apply to my other classes and to my community at home. I also got to talk to friends in LAS that live on different floors that I rarely get to talk to, and I am so thankful that I was able to go. I am excited to take the skills that I learned from this trip and apply them to activities in the classroom, such as intertwining leadership skills with things we do in our everyday lives while also presenting things that people can relate to. I love learning about new ways to be leader, and I love meeting new people. Connections really helped me branch out and -dare I say it?- kindle new connections!


Community, Leadership Development, Leadership Training

Mentor/Mentee Retreat

On September 10th, 2016, I hopped on a bus with my LAS cohort and the sophomore cohort above us. We headed over to Eagle Village in Hersey, Michigan for the weekend. After hanging out for a little bit, we presented the “Road Map” life timeline project that we were required to create before retreat. Later on, we were required to do a list of team building activities. We were assigned a certain group, and we stuck with that group for the weekend. After a long day of stressful events, we all gathered around a campfire to make s’mores and give “shoutouts” to our friends and mentors. This was my favorite part of the night, because it really showed how genuine these people are. Everyone was opening up and showing their true feelings, and it was amazing to see everyone’s different personalities.

The next morning, we had some free times to climb rock walls and hang out. It was my first time climbing a rock wall, so I was as nervous as ever. It also didn’t help that I was afraid of heights! As I was climbing the wall, I was about to give up because I thought I couldn’t climb any higher. The mentors and mentees on the ground below me kept urging me to go higher and were cheering me on, so I got a burst of adrenaline and kept climbing. I felt so awesome once I reached my goal, and I was so happy that I was able to get over my fear of heights (for a little bit, at least). After rock climbing, we went back to our team building activities. These activities were stressful and required teamwork and concentration. For one of the activities, the requirement was to take two PVC pipes and a golf ball and get the ball to the other side of the room without it falling onto the ground. This activity took our group two hours to complete. Yeah, you read that right- TWO HOURS. Everyone was getting extremely frustrated that the ball kept falling onto the ground, so our group leader offered us the option to give up and move on to the next activity. My group wasn’t ready to accept failure, and we continued the activity for a while longer. Finally, after several (and I do mean several) tries, we got the ball to the other side of the room. My entire group started screaming and running around, and we all were ecstatic that we kept trying and finally achieved our goal.


After the team building events, we moved on to the High Ropes course. As I mentioned before, I really hate heights. I was nervous to participate in the course, but I decided to do it because I wanted to gain a new experience and I was hoping to learn something new out of it. After saddling up and putting our helmets on, I climbed up the ladder with my mentor, Faith, and my LAS “brother”, Markus. The very first course I did involved crawling across a rope, and I instantly fell off and had to work my way back to the platform. Every time I fell off, someone would cheer me on and tell me that I could make it to the end of the course. Each course required various skills and determination, and it was extremely tiring. Not to mention, the course was around 50 feet off the ground. Once again, heights- not my thing.  Though I fell off multiple times, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the ropes course. I learned new skills and got to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

Now What? Retreat was something I’ll always remember, and I loved getting to bond with new friends from my cohort that I didn’t get to talk to very often. The event taught me many skills, and really showed me what leadership is about. I can’t wait to make even more connections with people within my cohort and experience many new things with them. I am excited to develop new skills and show everyone the leader I can be. I am so thankful that I was able to connect with genuine, kindhearted people, and learn new skills that I can use for the rest of my life.

Check out this awesome Retreat video for a recap of our weekend!